I am in Amman. For 22 Jordanian Dinars, I'm staying in a place with a chandelier and crown molding. Of course, the television doesn't work, and air-conditioning would be nice, but this place is PARADISE in comparison to my last digs in Petra. For anyone traveling to Petra any time soon, do not stay in the Hidab Hotel. It is not a hotel. It's a brothel full of women from Indonesia who speak Arabic in Indonesian accents. It's surreal. And manky. So manky. And the desk clerk will try to rip you off and make a scene when you tell him that you will not pay 50 Jordan Dinar when it is advertised for 50 US Dollars.
Clearly, it's been a while since I last put my thoughts out to the world. Let's see...I finished my internship and Arabic courses in Bethlehem. I traveled to Jericho and found nothing but economic depression and an Israeli-run tourist trap. I also traveled to Haifa and visited Akko for an afternoon. Akko was amazing. Haifa was humid and financially costly. A few days later, I packed up and took an Israeli bus all of the way to the south of Israel--to the coastal town of Eilat, where I crossed over into Jordan. The border crossing was the easiest thing I've done in a week. Well, that and sneaking into the Intercontinental Hotel in Aqaba and using their pool and beach facilities for free all day. That was like stealing candy from a baby.
Thing is, while I had fantasies of wide-open beaches on the Red Sea in Aqaba, it turned out that there was very little public access, and the rest of the shoreline was bought up by hotels. Unfortunately, the public access beach was polluted, littered in broken glass, and if this wasn't enough, extremely dangerous for women. Apparently, the swimming attire for women in Jordan is much like their street attire: Full hijab and six layers of clothing.
The ironic thing is that the public beach is just next door to the Intercontinental Hotel beach, which is heavily fortified with guards and such. Oddly enough, your average Jordanian cannot set foot through the security check, but a young, Western woman with a little white shoes on to match her little white hat can walk her little self right on through. It's little matter to anyone that I was staying across the street at the cheapest hotel possible...
After a restful day by the water (which was really fabulous), my fearless travel companion, Dr. B and I found a nice taxi driver and journeyed north to the famous canyons of Wadi Rum. We spent the morning there, allowing all of our senses to be fully exhausted by this amazing place. As I wrote a friend of mine: "It's one of the places on earth where time and space seem to stop and the white man enters the pages of National Geographic." In Wadi Rum, we found nothing but Beduoins and desert, and a 12-year-old boy who drove us around in a 4x4 for two hours through the sand.
After this, we found the local bus and headed to Petra. The aforementioned manky hotel aside, Petra was incredible. Dr. B and I have a tendency to push ourselves to our utmost limits. As a result of this, we climbed, hiked, and explored and off-roaded the entire expanse of Petra for two full days. Each day, we emerged covered in red sand and stained from sweat. There are no words to describe this place. It's beyond masterful. And well worth the hassle and debilitating sexism of Jordan.
So, at the moment, I'm in Amman. Tomorrow morning, I'm heading through the Allenby Bridge checkpoint, back over into Israel. I'll take a taxi to the bus, a bus to the border, and sit in border control for god only knows how long. After this, I will take a Palestinian bus to East Jerusalem. After that, I'll catch another bus from the Damascus Gate back to Bethlehem. Only, I won't take the Bethlehem bus, because it only goes as far as the Bethlehem checkpoint. I will pay 2 more shekels and take the Beit Jala bus that will actually take me into the West Bank and leave me about a half mile from my little refugee camp.
Funny how a refugee camp can be home. I only have a few more days in Bethlehem after my return. In a week, I'm moving to Jerusalem to start Hebrew school.
For now, I'm overly tan. Despite having a terrible diet, I'm in the best shape of my life. I can't remotely claim to be anything near Zen, but I'm alive. I'm tired, sweaty, and totally filled up on the Arab world. I wish me luck with the border crossing. It's a notorious nightmare.